Last week, a reader asked me to discuss the science behind getting those nice 6-pack or even 4-pack abs. How do they show? Many times, you feel strong but for some reason there is a persistent layer of fat that won't let them expose themselves. Sound familiar? Well, I am here to tell you that regardless how many ab exercises you do, you won't let those muscles in your abdomen shine if you don't clean up your diet. There is more to getting a chiseled tummy than banging out 100 crunches a day. I should know, I tried.
Prior to really knowing anything about working out, I used to spend 30 minutes EVERYDAY in the gym focused on my core. 30 minutes! My abs never showed, they never even peaked through. I felt strong, I WAS stronger but I was doing more harm than good. You shouldn't work out every muscle everyday and that includes your abs. I would hear that saying all the time and I would ignore it because at the time it didn't make sense but it totally does now. Your muscles need to time to rest, regenerate, and rebuild. Your core is made up of muscle groups including the muscles of your lower back and therefore, your abs are just like the rest of your body.
Here's an awesome quote I read in the UK version of Men's Health:
"In fact, scientists with far too much time on their hands at the University of Virginia worked out that it would take 250,000 crunches to burn one pound of lard, by which time you would probably have died of boredom anyway."
This quote concludes the point that crunches alone don't do it. You have to burn off that belly fat and because you can't just burn off fat in one area, you have to kick up your cardio routine and clean up your diet. When I stopped paying so much attention to time and amount of ab routines I was doing, and paying more attention to total body workouts, engaging my core, and living a healthier lifestyle, I began seeing results.
1. Kick up your cardio routine and burn more calories. For most of us, our lifestyle is pretty sedentary. We spend 8 hours of our day sitting down in front of our computer. Walking on the treadmill, although a great workout for someone starting their fitness routine, isn't going to get you the 6-pack abs so take it up a notch. Run, bike ride, dance, swim or take a total body aerobics class. Whatever you do, make sure you work 100%.
2. Clean up your diet and reduce the amount of oily, greasy, and sugary foods consumed. It's doing you no good.
3. Lift weights. Your abdominal core is built to support your body. As you train the rest of your body and engage your core, your abdomen will grow stronger. Don't give me the "I don't want the body builder look" either because you won't get it. To look like a body-builder, you have to train like a body-builder and lifting 10 pound weights won't get you there so don't worry.
4. Keep your metabolism going. Avoid eating large meals that will "hold you down." That alone sounds lazy and fat inducing. Instead, eat small meals throughout the day to keep your metabolism going. It'll work even while your sitting on your office chair.
5. Drink more water. Avoid the juices and the sodas that have unnecessary amounts of sugar and go for the basics. Water will do!
6. Crunches. Switch up your routines and perform exercises that work all areas in your core. I like this routine from Women's Health Magazine. Remember, don't do them everyday. Three times a week will do.
Lastly, avoid obsessing. Don't forget to eat and don't overdo it at the gym. It's not worth it. You are beautiful with or without the 6-pack of abs.